In a difficult decision, the Sauk Valley Community College Board of Trustees voted 6-1 at its February 22nd meeting to approve a $10 tuition increase to take effect next fall. The decision, while tough for students, was necessary in light of the decrease in state funding for community colleges.
“Our students are our top priority,” said SVCC President Dr. George Mihel. “We’re being progressive so we can not only keep our doors open for students, but to move into the future to grow and provide more opportunities.”
Beginning with the fall 2010 semester, tuition will go from $89 to $99 per credit hour. For an average full-time student (11-12 credit hours), that will equal about $220 more per year.
The reason for the tuition raise is that Sauk will most likely not receive full state funding for Fiscal Year 2010 (FY 10) or Fiscal Year 2011 (FY 11). By not receiving full apportionment, Sauk will lose an estimated $1.1 million in FY10 and $1.5 million in FY11. Sauk has received only half of its FY10 state funding and doesn’t expect to see any more than that next year. It will also likely be years before the state can fund full apportionments. Without full state funding, Sauk faces a huge deficit in its operating funds budget. To repair this, significant changes had to be made.
While the state considers it a delay, not a reduction, SVCC takes it much more seriously. Raising tuition is not good, but cutting programs and services to students would be far worse. Dr. Mihel told his staff that the state’s budget crisis may force some community colleges and four-year schools to close by August and he is determined not to let that happen to Sauk. Paula Meyer, dean of business services, told the Board no specific program cuts were discussed, but, if things get worse, cutting certain academic programs, student activities, athletics, and even furloughing faculty and staff are distinct possibilities.
Sauk is certainly not alone. All 39 community colleges are making or have made similar difficult decisions from tuition increases to hiring freezes. Tuition-wise, Sauk ranks 21st out of the 39 community colleges statewide with the increase. Compared to community colleges similar in size, geographics, and demographics, Sauk is fifth out of eight.
“What we plan to do is stay positive and be progressive,” said Dr. Mihel.
In another commitment to ensure Sauk stays afloat in turbulent economic waters, the Board approved no salary increases for all support, professional-technical staff and administrators for FY11. This was done to help make every attempt to hold any tuition increases to a minimum.
The Board also approved the appointment of the architectural firm of Wight & Company in Darien to prepare a Campus Facilities Master Plan for $99,000. Monies for the plan will come from funding bonds – not operating expenses. State law mandates that the College develop a facilities master plan every five years. Acting President Alan Pfeifer explained that funding bonds can only be used for capital projects only – not operating expenses.
“It’s important to understand that these funding bonds cannot be used for any operating funds of any kind,” Pfeifer told the Board.
Sauk’s campus is also safer now with the addition of 12 new security cameras. Funding for the equipment came from a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Grant for $49,500 that was awarded to Sauk through Congressman Don Manzullo. The SVCC Board approved the equipment purchase in December. The cameras have been installed and are operational.
The Board also approved full-time faculty appointments and reappointments for the 2010-11 academic year.